Crossing the Road (Film Review: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”)

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A surprisingly deep yet lighthearted film about two clashing cultures, an East Meets West tale about the power of cooking that can blend even the most disparate palates and souls.

SnapShot Plot

As an antidote to the veil of sturm und drang which is swirling around issues of immigration, diversity and divisiveness, I give you the genial yet topical dramedy, The Hundred-Foot JourneyIt’s the story of the Kadam family from Mumbai whose generations-long restaurant legacy has ended in violence and tragedy, from which they embark on an odyssey to find a new home and start over somewhere in Europe. They find themselves in the French countryside, in the picturesque area known as the Midi-Pyrénées, long heralded as a touchstone of classic French cuisine. When the patriarch (played to wily perfection by veteran Indian actor, the late Om Puri) discovers the ruins of an abandoned restaurant directly across a country road (100 feet, to be exact) from a Michelin-star rated French culinary legend, he decides to buy it on the spot. Helen Mirren is perfectly cast as Madame Mallory, the doyenne of Le Saule Pleureur, a place considered an institution of haute cuisine which serves classic dishes prepared according to age-old traditions. After Maison Mumbai opens with loud and garish fanfare, it’s not long before the patriarch and the matriarch find themselves embroiled in a comic yet brutal turf war.

Caught in the cross hairs of the bitter dispute is the second eldest Kadam son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), a gifted chef in his own right who is torn between the pride of creating classic Indian dishes for a new clientele, and the longing to aspire to the rarefied heights of French haute cuisine. Complicating matters is his friendship with Marguerite, a talented but competitive sous chef, played with saucy charm by Charlotte Le Bon. It’s abundantly clear that Hassan is destined for greatness, but whose apron will he wear?

 

 

Parting Shot

The always engaging Lasse Hallström (Chocolat; My Life as a Dog; The Cider House Rules, et al) has directed The Hundred-Foot Journey with typical finesse and a sensitive touch for the nuances of family dynamics. The script, by Steven Knight, was adapted from Richard Morais’ 2010 novel of the same name.

What is so likable about The Hundred-Foot Journey, on top of its heartwarming story and fine performances, is the respect it pays to both Tradition and Modernization. The world of classic French cuisine, as well as the time-worn and rich heritage of the Indian table, are both treated with loving care and attention to detail. And yet, as the film states, there’s also much to gain by mixing, blending and borrowing from seemingly opposite cultures in order to create flavors and sensations wholly new and original. Boiled down to its essential stock, The Hundred-Foot Journey is clearly about the Fusion between two historic cuisines, but of course on a deeper level it’s about the soulful fusion that can take place when something nourishing and beautiful can emerge from the ashes of fear and distrust. When The Other is replaced with The All.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWo67uhzoQg

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